St Kilda hosted Richmond at Marvel Stadium in a Saturday afternoon matinée that was arguably more appetising than the later showcases. The renewing of Maddie’s Match to continue a heart-warming tradition between the two clubs, promised an engrossing affair as the Saints had shown good form and the Tigers seemed off after the recommencement of the season.

The Saints came in wanting to square the ledger between their wins and losses, having been soundly beaten by Collingwood after a convincing performance against the Bulldogs.

The Tigers swung the axe at selection after coming off a critical loss of their own against the Hawks. They were on shaky ground after only salvaging a draw against the Pies the week before and another loss would put their season in troubled waters.

But let’s get stuck into this game and the stuff that mattered.

The Breakdown

The Tigers had the initial hot start, scoring a goal in 14 seconds, but that’s where their momentum ended. Three names stuck out for the Saints early as they kicked the next four goals. Zak Jones, Dan Butler and Tim Membrey. The Saints continued the trend of the Tigers sluggish starts, albeit not as extreme as previous weeks. Jones was in everything in the middle (it was a shame he was later injured and couldn’t finish the match), Butler continually popped up, and I don’t know who was on Membrey but they should be wearing a string line with their opponent during training this week, to realise they actually need to stand next to them at some point. Richmond would rally later on in the quarter and set up an enthralling contest.

This game developed into a real arm-wrestle in the second quarter. Both teams were exerting real pressure on each other’s ball movement and both were looking to take the game on, and aggressively attack the others defence. St Kilda held sway in the stoppages but couldn’t hurt the Tigers enough to make it count. The quarter would turn when Astbury would go off in an innocuous incident. The Saints would be able to gut-run their way behind the Richmond defence for a couple of easier goals, but the Tigers forward pressure was renewed and they continued stay in touch.

The Saints continued to throw down the gauntlet to the Tigers in the third quarter. Using the Tigers own strategies against them with surge football and forward pressure, the Saints clunked their marks and got in the Richmond defenders faces. The Tigers responded by giving away stupid free kicks and the Saints put it on the scoreboard and got out to a 28-point lead. It almost seemed cruel for Saints fans, as the Tigers received some fortunate bounces in their forward 50 that led to some easy goals to reduce the margin to a manageable 15 points at the final break.

The Saints drew first blood in the last quarter and threatened to stretch the lead beyond the Tigers reach. A couple costly 50-metre penalties and some poor defensive efforts and the Saints would put the Tigers away with five minutes remaining.

The Tigers had hung on as long as they could, but they were simply overwhelmed in the end. If you’d asked me about who won the key stats in this game, I would’ve said the Saint won the clearances, contested possessions, inside 50’s and tackles, comfortably. They only won one of those stats (clearances, by two). In what was a fairly even game on the stats sheet, did not convert to an even game on the scoreboard. You can put it down to accurate kicking if you want, but to the eye, it was the Saints who wanted it more, and they wanted it for longer.

THE BEST STUFF

 

The Butler Did It

When you ask who defeated the Tigers, there is one main answer. Butler did it!

Given the current state of the two teams this season, how the hell did the Tigers let this guy go? Given the current dearth of form for any Richmond small forward this season, what would they give to have him back? Butler has arguably been the recruit of the season so far. He’s probably leading the Saints’ Best & Fairest at this stage of the season and he delivered in a big way against the Tigers. He finished with three goals from his 13 disposals (arguably should’ve had at least one more goal). In this mongrel’s opinion a clear BOG performance.

The Battle Rattle

Not many would know this kid, but geez he can play. Previously a defender but utilised as a forward in his first game of 2020. Josh Battle lived up to his name as he was one of the main Saints to get in the face of the Richmond defenders. A couple of strong marks acting as the link-up man between attack and defence, he would be unlucky to lose his spot on such a strong start to his season. He rewarded himself with a goal when the opportunity presented. Finished with 16 disposals and was a high-impact player from the first bounce to the final siren.

I’m Tim, ‘Member?

Remember Tim Membrey? I’m not sure if the Tigers did. It seemed as if the Tigers bought into the hype about Max King and simply forgot that Membrey is the proven forward of the Saints attack.  He scored three goals of his own to match Butler, and Membrey also had a game-high five marks inside-50, as the Tigers seemingly forgot he was there, lurking in the shadows of Max King.

The Tank vs The Law

What a great ruck contest.

Nankervis got the reprieve this week with Soldo going out of the side. Unfortunately, he ran into the officer in charge of the St Kilda ruck division.

I’ve actually found room in the votes for both ruckmen this week (and I don’t give votes to ruckmen often). This battle was incredibly even. Both men played huge roles for their respective sides. Just take a look at the numbers which pretty much spell out the equality of their output. 26-25 hitouts favouring Nankervis (saints won clearances by two). Two goals to one favouring Marshall. 17 disposals to 15 favouring Nankervis. And seven tackles to two favouring Nank’. Nankervis was Richmond’s best, but Marshall was just as vital for St Kilda. I found it very difficult to split them, but favoured Nank’, but I’m not marking Marshall any lower in my estimations. Paddy Ryder might find it hard to justify his role if this is the type of game Marshall produces without him.

The Good Stuff

Shane Edwards

Don’t know where the Tigers midfield would’ve been today without Edwards and Prestia. Edwards probably would’ve featured in the votes had the Tigers won, but I couldn’t fit him in. He had a game-high eight clearances and 14 contested possessions to provide one of the very few shining lights for Richmond.

Charge of the Lightfoot Brigade

The St Kilda small forwards. Butler, who we’ve already talked about, along with Lonie, Kent and Billings. They’ve emulated the Richmond model and punished the Tigers with it. These guys just buzz around and harass the opposition and if you give them a sniff, they hurt you. Seven goals between the first three and 25 disposals to Billing signifies that the Saints small men delivered in a big way against the Tigers.

Tom Lynch

Looks the only lively target in the Richmond front half. Wasn’t this the fear when the Tigers recruited him? That they would become too reliant on their shiny new big key forward? Sure, they made it work in the first season, a premiership is hard to argue with, but are they beginning to fall into the trap that so many teams with a dominant key forward fall into.

Lynch kicked two goals today (with a couple more poor misses) and presented well. But without him do they have much else? Riewoldt is out of form and can only seem to find space on the boundary on or the most blatant of turnover in the defensive half. He won’t be slotting those needle-eye goals forever. One can only imagine how the Tigers would fare if Lynch played a genuinely horrible game.

Ben Long

Looks a very good kid coming off half back. Had some wayward kicking at times but has some real dash and looked calm in some heavy traffic. Led the Saints in intercepts and had seven tackles. If Long can clean up his disposal he will quickly elevate himself to an elite rebounding defender.

Dion Prestia

I would hate to think how much more Richmond would’ve been mauled in the stoppages if Prestia and Edwards had not been out there. Digging deep into the trenches, Prestia was one of the few Tigers who battled hard and fought out the game. Providing plenty of run and support between the arc’s, but his disposal let him down a couple times which kept him out of the votes, and the Tigers just out of the match.

Hunter Clark

This guy was everywhere early in the last quarter. Talk about stepping up at the right time. Clark seemed the only Saints running defender who had poise in the last when the Tigers pressed. Finding the footy at critical times and seemingly always having the ability to spot up a teammate.

The Man of Steele

I would not want to be on the receiving end of a crunching Jack Steele tackle. Steele won’t get the plaudits of some of his teammates, but his brutality in the stoppages during this game was pivotal in ensuring the Saints held sway in this area. Particularly that when Richmond did win the ball in close, Steele made them earn every bit of it. He’s the type of player you love to have on your team, and the type you keep in your mind when you’re the opposition.

The Not So Good Stuff

Stacks Off

Spared the axe this week, but I don’t think Sydney Stack will survive for much longer if he continues to underperform. Two early mistakes, which cost the Tigers a goal with an early dropped mark in defence. Then another bad one in the second quarter coming out of defence. He got a lucky bounce in the third quarter that gave him an easy goal, but finished with only nine disposals.

The Wrong Point

Jack Riewoldt’s point at the end of the first quarter should not have counted. It was clearly kicked after the siren and the umpire’s ineptitude to correctly adjudicate the situation was unacceptable. Why even bother having the rule if it’s not going to be enforced? I guess from now on, if a player is having a shot and the siren goes, he gets to complete the shot in any manner he sees fit without disqualifying the result.

Vlastuin the Fool

I counted at least three times Vlastuin either gave away a downfield free, a 50-metre penalty or turnover of possession that led directly to a St Kilda goal. Frankly, I don’t care if he’s had ten intercept marks and 30 disposals. He’s meant to be a leader of this Tigers team and he cost them more then he gave them in this match.

Rusty Dusty

Dusty just looked a little off for most of this game, which is exactly what Richmond doesn’t need right now with their season quickly slipping away. By the end of the game it seemed as if he had lost interest. Fumbling the footy and not really applying any pressure the other way. He just couldn’t click into gear and had only 12 disposals coming into the last quarter, running at roughly 50% efficiency. Hopefully, he will be better for the run and get some passion about him this week and put it into West Coast next Thursday.

The Other Stuff

If you don’t mind Umpire?

Midway through the first quarter Jonathon Marsh got a clear hand to ball in a marking contest. After bouncing off his hand it then went over his head to David Astbury who went to try and run through the ensuing tackle. Only for the umpire to rudely interrupt and troublingly call a mark to Astbury. This was exacerbated when later in quarter Jake Carlisle went up in a pack and clearly punched the ball, and then gathered it on the second bite, only for play-on to be called. No doubt a refresh of the rules of marking is in order for that umpires this week.

The Wrap

Glad to say I tipped this result. I had no faith in my tipping as I am always at the bottom of the tipping ladder come the end of the season, but I’ll take the credit when possible. The Saints showed up in a big way and put the Tigers further into the depths of the lower part of the ladder. The Saints played hard, attacking footy. The type of footy that will get their fans excited and wishing they could pack out Marvel Stadium to show them they appreciate the effort the boys are putting in.

The Saints

All credit to Brett Ratten and his coaching group. They have got this team humming. A crucial game looms next week against Carlton. The thing about becoming a good team is you have to win the games you’re expected to win.

The Tigers

Another loss for the Tigers. Poor performances from their stars and their small forwards continue to fail to deliver at the lofty standards they’ve set over the past three years. A HUGE clash awaits at Metricon next week against the Eagles. One team will kiss any top-four hopes goodbye. Yes the Tigers did buck the trend last year, but in a shortened season and with far less injuries, there is nowhere near as much scope for teams to drop a couple games behind the ledger and still create havoc.

 

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